A project for NZ Music Month...

In 2011 I celebrated NZ Music Month in style by writing 31 microscores in 31 days. It was a huge success, they all got recorded, are hugely popular and I use them almost weekly when talking to students about composition and instrumentation. In 2012, while I was involved in many Music Month events, I didn't have a music composition project and I was pretty disappointed about it.

So in 2013, it's back!

NZ-Music-Month1

What I like about this project is that usually all of my time is spent on other people's music - an absolute joy and honour - but it means I never get any time for my own composition. So NZ Music Month is a great annual opportunity to make sure that I work on my own music and have something worthwhile to show at the end of it.

I have debated for some time exactly what I would do this year - more daily microscores, weekly ensemble pieces, fortnightly larger pieces - or perhaps something slightly different.

I'll go for something slightly different.

For a long time, years in fact, I have wanted an online store to sell my own music - easily and automatically. Aside from works for professionals, I have a lot for students, community and school ensembles - and there is a great market for this. Sure, people can already buy it - through SOUNZ and by emailing me - but that doesn't quite cut it. People should be able to search on the internet, find a piece, discover and experience it, buy it, download it, play it. And I don't want to just export or print a version from the latest Sibelius file, I want to have properly published music - finalised, stylised, done, dusted, complete.

Initially, I thought I would finish a collection of piano music to sell - editing the current four pieces I had and writing four new ones - but I decided that I was still avoiding the most important step of all - to get this online store of music up and running and full of the music that I already have. So, now it's going to happen.

By May 31, my birthday and the final day of NZ Music Month, people from all around the world will be able to buy my published music easily and automatically from this site.

Here are the main things I will need to consider:

  1. What to publish
  2. Editing and publishing
  3. Selling method, charges, etc
  4. Cataloging
  5. Promotion and launch

It's going to be a big month - I've got an Auckland Philharmonia premiere, Auckland Symphony rehearsals, the 48 Hour Film festival, 10 days in Australia, a trip to Hawke's Bay, plenty of music prep, arranging and teaching commitments, and my 30th birthday!

It'll be a big month, but I'm really excited and I look forward to writing several posts along the way - addressing the points above and no doubt discussing the setbacks and triumphs. Stay tuned.

I survived 2012. This is how it was!

The New Year means it's time to have a look back over the past year and see, through my blog posts, what has taken shape and what I have to say for myself! January started with a very well deserved "Shout-out to VaultPress" after they marvellously got my website back up and running after a meltdown!

3100508059_5c99a0f9e1_zFebruary is the start of the school term and I posted about the preparation work I do for schools.

My typing fingers must have been tired at the end of March - it started with two popular posts, iOS apps for music professionals and Digital music stands vs iPads, following on from, again, two very popular posts I did in 2010.

2012-05-15 APO Open Days 236

Following that were four posts on current projects - "Working on workshops" looked at some teaching workshops I was involved with, "An opportunity to make the floor rumble" talked about my upcoming new work for the Auckland Philharmonia and the Auckland Town Hall Organ. I conducted at the Bay Of Plenty Music School once again and my post, "Bay Of Plenty music school hit Rotorua!", pre-empted my visit there, and finally "Opening up an orchestra" reviewed the first two Auckland Philharmonia Open Days were I ran the "meet the composer" area.

In April I reviewed my time at the Bay Of Plenty Music School in "Making music in Rotorua" and posted photos in "Checking out the pipes" after an inspiring tour of the Auckland Town Hall Organ.

My Confession image May is music month and "A month of New Zealand music" checked out the events me or my music was involved with. It's also 48 Hour Film Festival time and our film this year was "My Confession…".

In June I talked about my involvement with Auckland Symphony's "Night Of The Proms" concerts in "Promenading in the colony" and I posted "Questions for a composer" after answering questions for a student's school assignment.

In July I posted my one word review of each piece from the "Nelson Composers Workshop 2012" where I was very happy to go this year as a mentor.

APO "Tiraki" workshopAugust is KBB Music Festival time and I also posted on the ongoing saga regarding the future of Sibelius in "What the heck is happening with Sibelius!". My piece, Tiraki, started to take shape after another workshop with the Auckland Philharmonia.

September was rather dormant on the blog front but in October I reviewed “What Lurks Among Saints” after being invited by a student I met earlier in the year.

The-Hobbit1In November I had the privilege of "Playing my role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", and I posted about the experience.

December was busy with a number of projects. In "Little pieces of Christmas" I talked about a bunch of Christmas arrangements I did for the Auckland Philharmonia and Auckland Symphony orchestras. I also talked about a film I was involved with, called "Sounds Perfect" and its selection into the Tropfest final in “Sounds Perfect” to be in a final". I then prepared music for some very fine New Zealand singers and talked about it in "Preparing for some legends!".

christmas-musicFinally, no year is complete without a "Merry Christmas" post thanking you for all of your support during the year and the compliments of the season.

Another year ticked off the list, another year doing my absolute dream job - let's get ready for an even better 2013!

REVIEW: "What Lurks Among Saints"

What Lurks Among Saints On Friday night I had the pleasure of going to see the Liston College musical, "What Lurks Among Saints". Never heard of it? That's because it is new, brand new! An impressive feat for any school music department, even more so when the script and music is written by students and the director is the head boy. I met the composer, Josiah Carr, at an APO Open Day earlier this year where he came and said hello. He mentioned then that he was writing a musical and although being mightily impressed, I was well aware of the massive amount of work it takes to put a musical on to the stage. So, I was pleasantly surprised when he emailed me recently to invite me to opening night!

To set the scene, here is a short synopsis courtesy of the Liston College head of music, Janice Spearritt:

"In 1962 the townspeople of Chicago are gearing up for what seems to be another dreary election. After a year of mismanagement under the current Mayor the citizens are looking for a change. Victor Whitman is a newcomer to Chicagoan politics and seems to have stolen the attention of many of the townspeople including the determined businesswoman, Angelina Iverson. CEO of the largest stationery company in the Mid-West, she recently has had the Mayor at her beck and call, but seems to be abandoning the sinking ship. Her sights are currently set on expansion of her company and monetary gain, with acquisition of the foreclosed Chicago downtown Cathedral on the agenda. However she is meeting resistance from Stanley Glasgow, the manager of the downtown bank currently in possession of the church. Not that the church was going to put up without a fight, the clergy are set to try anything they can, even if it means to back the unpopular Mayor." Rosalina Rodriguez arrives to the convent in Chicago, a happy, optimistic novice sent from California, unaware of the struggle the church is facing. Her presence seems to have an uplifting effect and the church seems to gain traction. But when everything starts to look hopeful, catastrophe strikes – a catastrophe which turns Chicago upside down. Tension is high, romance is evident, and Chicago is in chaos. Lives are at stake, as everyone is searching for, what lurks among saints."

So, there is a lot going on. The "Inspector" did provide a short introduction but it was the first of many dialogues (or songs) not entirely comprehendible due to the band being too loud. This was an essential dialogue considering no one in the audience knew what it was about. A short synopsis or "scene-setter" in the programme would have also been nice so we could enjoy and understand it right from the beginning.

The band was made up of a flute, 3 clarinets, soprano saxophone, 2 alto saxophones, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, 2 trumpets, trombone, drums, piano, synthesizer, electric and bass guitars and 2 violins. A nice group, and they made a great sound, but I wonder if the instrument numbers were too large for this setting and a smaller group would mean more control over dynamic contrasts and problems wouldn't arise like mentioned above.

The music itself, however, was very well developed. It fitted the 1962 Chicago setting and as well as being stylistically aware, it was clearly original and gave the production a unique sound. Themes were well used, recurring as they should and providing a clear musical element for our ears to catch on to. While the full ensemble writing was indeed very polished, more variety with smaller combinations of instruments and different textures/colours could add even more strength to the production. There was some great links between the music and comedic happenings on stage, and some very fine moments of ensemble singing.

The performance of the music was good, clearly a lot of work had gone in. The rhythm section was a real asset and the brass in particular managed some very high and exposed passages impressively. Josiah very securely conducted the ensemble and the only minor slips came due to either him being not well illuminated or due to the bulk of the musicians being quite a distance away.

On stage it had everything it needed - romance, death, humour, intrigue, religion, politics, scandal and more. The lead characters all had a lot to offer, some great stereotypes and some fantastic lines to amuse us. There were a lot, however, and all coming at the story from different angles so there is a lot to keep on top of.

Being a musical, you do expect a script with twists and turns, fantastic music and... choreography. I was a tad disappointed that there was no dance sequences until the very end. It was good when it came, but it is a key element of musicals so would have been nice for some more. Dance sequences are also a chance for the music to shine and for the musicians to let loose.

My wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed the production. Huge congratulations to Josiah Carr (composer), Anthony Yelavich (script-writer) and James Devereaux (director) for creating and producing a very enjoyable and successful show - an accomplishment many only ever dream about. Major kudos also needs to go to the music department and school for giving the students this opportunity and supporting it through the final step.

Read a newspaper article on the three students here.

The production had three shows on 19th and 20th October at the Massey High School Performing Arts Centre. It also involved students from St Dominic’s College.

Working on workshops

It has been an enjoyable start to the year presenting some workshops around Auckland. "Sibelius in education" - professional development day

On Friday 24th February I had the first session at a professional development day for secondary music teachers. We looked at how to use Sibelius effectively in education and checked out all of the features that are going to help both them and students use the program to its potential. The next two sessions were by Philip Norman, looking at the life and music of Douglas Lilburn and a session on composition titled "Composition can't be taught... but techniques to help it on its way can".

"Sibelius In Education" seminar at Hotel Barrycourt 1 "Sibelius In Education" seminar at Hotel Barrycourt 2

"What's new in Sibelius 7 and education feature supercharge" - Faculty of Education

On Wednesday 15th March I worked with the new music teacher graduates at Auckland University's Faculty of Education. They had learnt Sibelius on version 6 so before they headed out in to the schools we looked at what was new and different in version 7 and also checked out a number of the fantastic education features that makes Sibelius a joy to use in the classroom.

The next composers... - secondary schools

I have also been working at two secondary schools with composition students. Developing their own compositions as well as workshops on string writing and developing an idea through a composition.

"Meet the composer!" - APO Open Day

On a related note, coming up this Sunday is the Auckland Philharmonia Open Day and you'll find me in the "meet the composer" room. Find out what composers do and how our ideas make it to the orchestra's music stands; try out the Sibelius notation software and add your ideas to our "Open Day" composition - see you there!

Preparing for education

Schools are back this week, and to celebrate I am introducing a new service aimed specifically at helping school music departments. Are you a school music teacher? You will want to read on! 3100508059_5c99a0f9e1_zMusic preparation, notation and arranging tasks come up often - they sit on your desk, perhaps you may give it to a student to have a go at, but it's often a job made more than it should be. Until now, that is.

We all know how ridiculously passionate I am about preparing music, so here's an option I hope you can't resist.

It's simple. A job comes up, email it to me, and I'll do it quickly and without hassle. I'll email it back as a PDF ready for you to print or copy at your leisure.

Here are some possibilities:

  • Found the perfect piece for your group, but it doesn’t suit their instrumentation or technical ability? I can arrange it.
  • A singing student needs their piece in a different key? I can transpose it.
  • Gave out an original part and now it is missing? I can recreate it.
  • No violas? I can make your violin III part.
  • Got a sax in your orchestra or other non-standard instruments? I can create their parts.
  • Need worksheets or examples created for your resources or presentations? I can do it.
  • Have handwritten, printed or MIDI music that you need in Sibelius? I can do it.
  • Sibelius frustration? I can help.

Sound good? Visit my new schools page here and download the flyer.

There is no doubt that music departments are a hive of activity in schools. The amount of rehearsals supervised, parts organised and music read every week is astonishing. Hopefully in 2012 I can help to take the pressure off.

2011 through the eyes of a blog

And just like that, another year is gone! Here is a look at my posts for the year. thinking web picThe blogging year started in March with my favourite book arriving, "Behind Bars", which I preordered in 2010. It is definitely the most used book on my shelf! I then talked about two approaching projects:

In April I introduced my new work, "blimp", and reviewed two projects - a song I helped a friend create and my work at the BOP music school:

May was a busy month, so in June I talked about what I had been up to - writing 31 microscores and the premiere of "blimp":

In July I posted the video I worked on with Sideways Productions:

In August and September I covered my involvement in the KBB Music Festival and some composition tutorials that I held in Kerikeri:

October was the kick off of the Rugby World Cup here in New Zealand, I talked about my involvement in the opening ceremony and also made a post about what exactly I do when "preparing music" and why you would need someone like me to do it:

December means Christmas and I posted some Christmas carols that I prepared for my students. I also composed a new "holiday" piece for my Christmas post:

Happy New Year everyone, bring on 2012!

Composition tutorials in Kerikeri

I had the pleasure of going up to Kerikeri High School on the 22nd to 23rd of August to work with my good old mate (also the Head of Music) on some professional development and with the students - providing some composition tutorials. DAY ONE This was a teachers' only day and the perfect opportunity to talk through the music equipment and classroom setup - focusing on how new technologies can be implemented in the department. We also spent some time working with Sibelius and seeing how effective it can be in education... one of my favorite things!

Kerikeri visit - photo 2

DAY TWO Heralded the return of the students! I gave two one-hour talks on composition and another session where I went through many of the students' compositions with them.

Kerikeri visit - photo 5

The focus of these talks was "back to basics" - how do you go about starting a composition and developing your ideas during it. We had fun looking at many different variation techniques and how they are used in different pieces of music. Most of the examples were from the 31 microscores I wrote during May this year.

It was a fantastic few days. Please contact me if you would like me to come to your school!